A British-based manufacturing company that has bought Vanderhoof’s farmland for tree planting, is now considering to switch to deforested areas instead.
Reckitt Benckiser Group plc (RB) had purchased three more farms near Dawson Creek in July — three weeks after suspending its RB Trees Programme which had involved planting trees on B.C.’s farmland — according to documents released by Delta South MLA Vicki Hungtington earlier this month.
In June, the company had more than 10,000 ha of farmland in the region to be used for off-setting its carbon emissions, sparking protests from local governments on productive farmland being taken up by trees and their impact on farming communities.
In a statement to Black Press, RB said the company already had the signed agreements for the three additional farms when it halted its tree-planting program for review.
“No action has been taken on these properties as RB continues to consult British Columbians on the future of this program,” said RB, as discussions continued with landowners, MLAs, as well as B.C. and local governments.
“Many have highlighted the need for reforestation on lands that have been depleted by the pine beetle or wildfires,” RB added. “It is an option we are exploring.”
Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick said he had a presentation from RB, with suggestions about alternatives to planting more trees on farmland.
“I’m not at liberty yet to disclose those because they were given to us confidentially but I have reason to be optimistic,” Letnick said.
The latest acquisitions will bring RB’s total of B.C. farmland properties to 12,000 ha, he added.
An issue that Shirley Bond, B.C.’s Minister of Jobs, has raised during her visit to Vanderhoof earlier in October, RB’s tree planting is a big concern in the area, as it affects the community’s economy and the ability to feed ourselves, Mayor Gerry Thiessen said.
“It’s our best agricultural land that they have purchased,” Thiessen said. “Not for the benefit for B.C., but for their country’s wellbeing.”
Though he has heard about the purchasing ten years ago, it was a time when real estate on agricultural land was quite cheap and a way for people to get out of owning their farms, he said.
“Only the last little while that we have seen some immediate interest in our agriculture in the area,” Thiessen added.
“If they really want to plant trees, we have forestry land,” he said.
With over 7 million trees to date, the program aims to plant enough to take in the amount of carbon dioxide produced in their operations from 2006 to 2017, and only on land that has been used or cleared for use for cultivation, according to RB.
The British company operates around the world, manufacturing and selling food, household and medical products under brands such as Calgon, French’s, Clearasil, Dettol, Scholl, Strepsils, Gaviscon and Woolite.
– with files from Tom Fletcher, Black Press